"The vulgar usage of (God), the way it is tossed around by people all the while, takes away the significance that it has had for the great thinkers and devoted souls who have lived by it. That’s true of every idea that is pointed to the highest attainments of human life.
Precisely because these ideas do have this majesty of significance, they are taken over by the demagogue, trying to get people to do what he wants them to do. They’re used by all kinds of people to give significance and importance to what they have to say. And especially is that true today." This was from a talk by HN Wieman in 1965 and it somehow seems all too applicable in 2005
A number of religious voices have spoken out against Frist's use of God to get Bush's judicial nominees through, including the Rev. Robert Edgar, head of the National Council of Churches. The Reform Jewish movement, the ADL and the Interfaith Alliance have also raised the dangers of making political disagreements serve as litmus tests for religious faith.
And George Will paints a picture of modernity vs. the church, never leaving open the possibility that there might be dangers and good things to be found in both quarters. Modernity is painted as libertine while the church is painted as authoritarian, both descriptions appear to miss the mark in that it removes the social basis of modernity and the semi democratic nature of most religious groups.
He also asks if democracy can be sustained without a belief in the transcendant. If the transcendant acts, as H. Richard Neibuhr proposed, as the absolute which relativizes human claims, interests, projects than one can see the importance of such a belief for democracy. But if it simply absolutizes our present beliefs, which seems to be the case today, then the question ought to whether democracy can survive such a belief? Can free inquiry and dialogue operate with this belief?
Progressive Protestant has mentioned the possibility of reading the Neibuhr brothers, especially in today's religious and political climate, such texts seem pertinent. I'm interested in doing so and I wonder if Christ and Culture by H. Richard Neibur or Radical Monotheism and Western Culture, a text which is online, might be the place to start. I'd like to start posting on such texts, though I admit that as my semester draws to a close my posting schedule is likely to get far more sporadic than I'd like.